Cyrano

Featured

21543863_10155713685010948_4232847201383974922_o

By Philip Pearce

IT’S INTERESTING the way that PacRep’s current season takes two central heroes of early 20th century European drama, Peter Pan and Cyrano de Bergerac, and gives them each a new look. Plus the frank theatricality of a handful of actors playing a whole lot of the characters involved in the stories of their lives.

In the June/July production of Peter and the Starcatcher twelve actors played more than 30 roles in a swashbuckling prequel to the August/July musical version of Peter Pan.

Now there’s an exciting new version of Cyrano, which tells the well-loved tale but pares nearly 50 speaking roles down to 27 to be played by a cast of nine.

When you think about it, Peter and Cyrano are cut from the same mold. Both are chock full of swaggering self-confidence, both are supernaturally brilliant swordsmen, both are sworn enemies of the social status quo. “I want,” Cyrano explains at one point, “to reduce the number of bows I have to make in a day.” Peter doesn’t want to grow up and have to make that kind of decision in the first place.

Like many another theater addict of my generation, I’ve always loved Rostand’s three hour, five-act marathon of moonlit romance, spontaneous poetry and dashing swordplay. But Michael Hollinger’s slick new translation and the fresh two-act adaptation of the text he shares with Aaron Posner make for a fast-paced and thoroughly satisfying evening in the Outdoor Forest Theater.

In a recent interview, Hollinger notes that the original script’s world of 17th century Paris isn’t exactly familiar territory to 21st century audiences. “It was important to me that the play speak to us, here and now, and therefore I made myself the litmus test of what would be accessible, immediate, funny, poignant, and so on.”

So there’s little left of Rostand’s blank verse or the sections of social comment on French society of the 1600’s. What comes across vividly is the central ironic dilemma of a man with a face so unsightly he can only use his supreme genius for poetic love talk to push his lady love into the arms of a handsome but tongue-tied rival.

Pacific Rep executive director Stephen Moorer is an active, touching and consistently funny Cyrano. He mines every vein of wit in the new script and catches most of the underlying pathos without ever slipping into the lilting Gielgud/Burton attitude and voice adopted by some Cyranos I’ve seen. His dying attack against social convention and phony officialdom is no reflective elegy, it’s a ruthless sword fight to the death.

This new version makes it easier to explore character motivations and navigate some of the finer points of 17th century French civic and military life by expanding the role of Le Bret. He’s no longer just Cyrano’s trusty military buddy; he’s a wise narrator who steps out of the action and into a spotlight to explain things directly to us ticket holders. It works admirably. Unlike Rostand’s audience but just like Shakespeare’s, we’ve reached a point where we like it when somebody pauses the story and comments on what’s going on. As always, Jeffrey T Heyer is clear and believable in the role.

The remainder of the players are busy and excellent, moving nimbly through two or three roles apiece. Jennifer Le Blanc is a beautiful, passionate Roxane, so swept up in a duet of Cyrano’s poetry and Gascon-cadet Christian de Neuvillette’s good looks that it takes her fourteen years to discover she’s been in love with the soul of one and only the body of the other.

Justin Gordon is an appealing Christian, a fresh military recruit who’s closely in touch with his feelings but clueless in expressing them. I liked his last-minute wide-eyed explosion of terror at having to woo the lovely Roxane, even coached by the eloquent Cyrano.

D Scott McQuiston is a bubbly and comically endearing Ragueneau, a pastry chef and would-be poet, who manages (in the interest of trimming down cast size) to shout protests at his wife for wrapping her pastries in the texts of his verses without her ever actually appearing on stage.

A small and energetic Andrew Mazer is convincingly tipsy as a bibulous cadet named Ligniere.  Lewis Rhames is willowy and comically inept as a plumed Parisian popinjay named De Valvert, one of a string of candidates for the hand of the fair Roxane. More purposeful and pompous is Michael Storm as another suitor, De Guiche, commander of Cyrano and Christian’s Gascon battalion. The versatile and surprising Garland Thompson moves effortlessly through five different roles, most notably in drag as Roxane’s busybody and sweet-toothed duenna and then in Rosary and wimple as the chatty, broom-wielding Sister Marthe.

Kenneth Kelleher’s direction manages, again and again, to make the nine-member cast look and act like a big crowd. My favorite segment of Act 1 is a sequence that doesn’t even happen in the old Rostand version. Cyrano, high and happy at some fond attention from his beloved Roxane, learns that a hundred sword-wielding thugs are planning a midnight ambush at the Porte de Nesle. He vows to bare his sword and carve them up, single handedly, one by one. Rostand’s script simply reports his success after the fact. Kelleher, Moorer and fight director Justin Gordon show it happening in a shadowy ballet of flashing swordplay which proves that perfectly timed farce can be both hilarious and beautiful.

I loved the show, but I had minor problems with the set design. The big outdoor theater stage allows for a lot of depth and width. But is the backstage area so limited that ingredients of Patrick McEvoy’s settings need to be stored in plain view instead of waiting in the wings to be wheeled on when required? The big quarter moon awaited its appearance in the balcony/garden scene from a position way upstage. And an unchanging background of blue-green wooden fretwork units gave a sense of clutter.

That said, it’s a must see, but take plenty of coats and blankets. It continues through October 15th.

 

 

Weekly Magazine

THIS WEEK

THE OTHER PLACE opens in Jewel Theatre’s production at the Colligan. SPECTORDANCE presents its first-of-2020 Choreographers Showcase. PIANIST TIEN HSIEH (pictured above) plays Schubert, Scriabin and Beethoven ‘Postcards” at CSUMB’s World Theater. ESPRESSIVO chamber orchestra offers up “Masterful Fun” in Santa Cruz. OSCAR SPEACE’S JANKA, a Holocaust memoir, at the Cherry in Carmel. FOR LINKS to these and other live performance events click on our CALENDAR or on the display ads, left.

THE OTHER PLACE

IN A NEW PRODUCTION by Jewel Theatre Company, Sharr White’s intriguing puzzle goes where nothing is as it seems. Brilliant research scientist Juliana Smithton has been on the cutting edge in her field and is now promoting her groundbreaking drug for the treatment of neurological disorders. When she experiences a disturbing medical episode of her own, she begins to unravel a deep personal mystery. The past blurs with the present and fragmented memories collide in this riveting drama, directed by Susan Myer Silton with Julie James (pictured right) as Juliana. “Engrossing…tantalizingly intense, edgily suspenseful…Every element falls perfectly into place.” ~ San Francisco Chronicle. THIS SHOW CONTAINS ADULT LANGUAGE; Run time: approximately 85 minutes with no intermission.
 
THE FOREST THEATER GUILD IS BACK; AUDITIONS SET
 
AFTER FIRST LOSING THEIR SPACE at Carmel’s unique outdoor Forest Theater, there has been a reprieve for the Forest Theater Guild. They have been given time for one show this coming summer. Their production of the classic family musical, Annie, will open with a Veteran’s free event on Wed June 24, two discounted evening performances on June 25 & 26 with the official opening on Saturday June 27. The show will run weekends through July 12. AUDITIONS for the show, which seeks “orphans” from ages 6 to 13 plus older players from 16 to seniors, will be held Feb 8 from 10:00am to 3:45 pm and on Feb 9 from 1:15 pm to 3:45 pm at Vista Lobos, Junipero & 3rd, in Carmel. Participants need to have one song and a short monologue prepared. They may bring sheet music for an accompanist or sing to any electronic device they bring. For additional information email/call Walt deFaria at wjdefaria@aol.com/831 809-1065 or email/call Yvonne Bowen at yvonnedavida@aol.com/831 214-0031.
 
MTAC SCHOLARSHIP AUDITIONS
 
THE MONTEREY COUNTY BRANCH; of the Music Teachers’ Association of California announces its 41st Annual Piano Scholarship Auditions, a Piano Competition and Incentive Awards Program open to young pianists in Monterey County between the ages of six and eighteen, that will take place at Santa Catalina School on Saturday, April 25, 2020. Call Lyn Bronson at 625-0797.

 

FROM THE STEINWAY FACTORY FLOOR

THE FIVE BROWNS— Ryan, Melody, Gregory, Deondra and Desirae—perform Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. All are students at Juilliard.

 

HOW TO SING TWO NOTES AT ONCE

AN MRI reveals the process visually. Would Mozart approve? Click HERE 

INUIT THROATSINGING

IN CANADIAN KANGIRSUK, a 2019 Sundance Festival screening. Click HERE  

THE HYPERTRAGIC NOTCH

THIS NEW CD, titled playlist, on New Focus label, will have limited appeal to violinists and violists who have a craving for new music that demands high virtuosity. Maya Bennardo and Hannah Levinson, who met at Oberlin Conservatory, and now known as inPlay, are two of them. Their program includes Crescita Plastica (2015) by Ashkan Behzadi (born 1983), Bézier (2013) by David Bird (born 1990), Limun (2011) by Clara Iannotta (born 1983) and the often-frantic Apocrypha (2017) by the aforementioned David Bird. (The latter, inspired by the sci-fi novel, and presumably the two movie versions, Solaris, adds digital noise to the mix.) Since the music on this CD stretches to extreme techniques—dissonantly close harmonies, stratospheric harmonics (overtones), whistles and slashing effects to twinge the ear. (In a grotesque way it reminds me of Arcangelo Corelli, at least for the close harmonies, though I doubt the Baroque master would agree.) Bézier, inspired by the Bézier parametric curves used in computer graphics, beats up the instruments with more percussion and twitters. Limun offers “skittering bows” and “a fluttering of harmonics” but also includes a quiet interlude in its closing moments. I think I like Apocrypha best because the electronics actually soften the combat between the instruments. SM

HOW TO TRULY LISTEN TO MUSIC

DEAF SCOTTISH PERCUSSIONIST Evelyn Glennie’s TED talk in Monterey.  

 

GREAT WRITERS ON THE POWER OF MUSIC

SUSAN SONTAG, Kurt Vonnegut, Friedrich Nietzsche, Edna St Vincent Millay, Aldous Huxley, Walt Whitman, Oliver Sacks, and many more. Click HERE  

RACHEL BARTON PINE REVIVING BLACK COMPOSERS

VIOLINIST SHOWS students of color that classical music is their birthright. A CBS News report. Click HERE 

FRESH REVIEWS

TANDY BEAL & CO’s Scoville Units. Click HERE

8 TENS @ 8 short plays at Center Stage. Click HERE

NEXT WEEK

TANDY BEAL & CO hosts clown duo Coventry & Kaluza in Santa Cruz. SANTA CRUZ BAROQUE FESTIVAL opens 2020 season with Vajra Voices. HORSZOWSKI TRIO in Carmel. BIG SUR FIDDLE CAMP benefit at Hidden Valley. GUITARIST WILLIAM COULTER at UCSC.

FOLLOW US ON TWITTER: @PerfArtsMtyBay

Scott MacClelland, editor; Rebecca CR Brooks, associate editor

 

Cirque de Tandy

By Scott MacClelland

OMG! Tandy Beal’s production of Scoville Units was like something you’d go to Las Vegas for. But at pennies on the dollar, you only had to go to Aptos. How good was the show? People streaming to their cars in the Cabrillo performing arts parking lot after the two-hour performance on Sunday afternoon could be heard raving out loud.

The program title celebrated Jon Scoville, Tandy’s “current” husband, company co-founder and resident composer. And while the globally prolific Scoville knows his craft inside out, much of his ‘music’ is sonic free-for-all, with electronic and concrète sources in equal measure. And with a cast of more than 45, the range of dance styles was equally global and local, the costumes from demure to exotic, the lighting and drops vivid and scintillating, like any circus of that calling should be.

Tandy Beal made her entrance in silence, rising alongside a concert grand piano that elevated slowly from the orchestra pit at Cabrillo Crocker Theater. Her stamp on what was to follow loud and clear. When the light came up again, Ivan Rosenblum presented four of Scoville’s piano pieces, the last, Pavane, with clarinetist Jeff Gallagher—both are well-known area musicians—joining in. Gallagher would reappear for a solo, Claire de Moon, accompanied by Beal in which her movements echoed the music’s phrases and melodic gestures with grace and simplicity, with hung clusters of reflective ribbons glittering and flashing with white light.

Between the two ‘units,’ and with the piano now gone from view, Omnigamelan (pictured above) presented Suciawani (sacred land) Balinese dancers Noni Anderawati, Nina Herlina and Maria Omo dancing their own Northern Bali-style choreography in spectacular costumes and ‘talking’ fans. Their steps embraced traditional gestures, hand, feet, arms, legs, neck and crowned heads, in coordinated patterns that allowed for individual solos. In plain attire, Elijah Leone launched Starscape with his roue Cyr—a six-foot metal hula hoop–in an acrobatic display of breathtaking skill and balance as he rolled around the stage like a gyroscope in every imaginable configuration within his magic wheel. (Leone has won numerous prizes for his art.) A recorded synthesizer solo accompanied him.

Balaço Baço, which means ‘mess,’ was choreographed and danced with precision by Palomar Ballroom’s Jeremy Pilling and his student Marinda James-Heskett, both glamorously attired in tango costumes. Compass Rose, from Beal and Scoville’s HereAfterHere, seen in the same theater several years ago, closed the concert’s first half with eight high-energy women in rank and file patterns of geographic design and explosive surprises, a testament to Beal’s musical and spatial instincts and unique sense of using contrary motion to beguile the senses.

Earlier, one of two videos—Boarding Pass—by Denise Gallant with a soundscape by Scoville, searched high and low for all manner of transport, from balloons to railways, from footage of the Wright Brothers to modern high-speed movement, imagery and music presented in montage. Gallant has collaborated with Beal and Scoville in the past, especially including HereAfterHere.

With music by Scoville, Paulo Brandão and Elizah Rodriguez, Lorin Hansen, an award winning malandro dancer (right), performed her own samba-saturated and very sexy Dobrada do Dobrado. This time those vertical ribbons were arrayed horizontally in a rainbow of bright colors.    

The other video, Tether, by Ellen Bromberg, depicted disturbing images and words about a car crash, falling to earth, being underwater and being undervalued, a powerful montage in chilling black and white. Maria Basile danced her own Glisten (in memory of bebop and hard bop drummer Paul Motian) to a recorded keyboard track. Basile is well-known in the San Francisco Bay Area, and for having choreographed for the Cabrillo Festival and appeared at SpectorDance in Marina. Fluttering hands and other familiar Beal gestures loom large in her designs.

The First Place (left)—Chris Banaga, Alo Galedo and Brandon Huynh—danced their own high-energy and high-precision, hip-hop take on Scoville’s Eskatos. They were followed by the composer’s 16-minute Sr Miro’s Saxophone, performed by the Premiere Saxophone Quartet—soprano, alto, tenor and baritone—a piece in seven short movements in a variety of styles. (As just one example of Scoville’s mastery of forms, the last movement was a passacaglia.) It was wisely played straight without any dancing, though the audience applauded each bit in turn.

That led to the grand finish, Beal’s Three Rivers for 12 women of all ages plus Tandy. Here again was Beal at her creative best, somehow making all the moving bodies speak coherently despite their individual and group differences. As the ten-minute work moved toward its climax, five four-year-olds scampered across the stage, only to be followed by all the previous dancers and musicians joining the corps on stage. After each took their own bows, Tandy dragged Jon on stage as a sustained standing ovation rewarded an unforgettable afternoon.

More attention on Scoville’s music is on tap in Beal’s more intimate A Wing and A Prayer, in mid-April at the Colligan in Santa Cruz.

Photos by Patricia Alpizar